Globalization and Development

WHY EAST ASIA SURGED AHEAD AND LATIN AMERICA FELL BEHIND

A sweeping investigation into why two promising regions took such radically different paths.
According to Elson (Governing Global Finance, 2011), an international economist and consultant who’s worked with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, there’s been a “big reversal” in the fortunes of East Asia and Latin America. Since the mid-1970s, nations such as Japan, China and Singapore have benefited from globalization, experiencing sustained, rapid economic growth. However, Latin America, which was once the most important region in the developing world, has relatively stagnated. Elson presents a far-ranging analysis of why East Asia prospered while Latin America did not. He focuses on so-called “deep determinants” of economic growth: initial conditions rooted in history and culture, policy choices, the role of institutions and political economy. He contends that East Asia was aided by its Confucian tradition, its effective bureaucracies, and policies that promoted stability and investment. In East Asia, he says, government tended to view economic development as a long-term goal. By contrast, he says, Latin America was burdened by Spanish-Portuguese colonialism, rampant inequality and weak government administration pressured by outside interests. In this lucid, timely and meticulously researched work, Elson bolsters his thesis by comparing the evolutions of six nations: Jamaica versus Singapore, Chile versus Malaysia, and Indonesia versus Venezuela. The starkly different outcomes offer
policymakers broad lessons, which the author deftly outlines in 10 “propositions” about the nature of successful economic development. Any economics text requires some intellectual stamina, but Elson does an admirable job of untangling the complex forces at work and presenting them in ways that laymen can understand. (The lack of executive summaries of each chapter is an unfortunate oversight, however, as it would have made the book even more reader-friendly.) Overall, the implications of Elson’s work are profound. Many believe that global growth in the 21st century hinges on emerging nations, and the author’s findings present a startling diagnosis of why some countries climb the economic ladder while others struggle to hold on.
Anyone with a political or financial stake in the developing world should study this compelling, scholarly work.

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2013

ISBN: 978-1137274748

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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